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Selective Salvation

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Let’s talk about something that all Christians know a thing or two about – salvation. Salvation is what we all strive for. Depending on your denomination, we live our lives attending church and listening to the gospel, and then when we reach the age of accountability we hit our knees in church one day and pray the Sinner’s Prayer and ask God into our hearts. We’re dipped into the water and washed in the blood of Jesus and our sins are swept away and we spend the rest of our lives following the tenants of the Bible so that we can go to Heaven when we die. And if we’re really serious about this salvation thing, if we really love our fellow man like the Bible tells us we must, then we spend a fair amount of time seeking out those sinners who have yet to see the error of their ways and we try to bring them into the light. We try to get them to renounce their sinful ways so that they, too, can be washed in the blood of Jesus and secure for themselves a place in Heaven.

That all seems so pure and clean and amazing, doesn’t it? But there’s just one problem. One wrench in the cog of the salvation machine. Who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

For example, say that before a man is baptized and saved, he looks at pornography on a fairly regular basis. Then in church on Sundays he begins to feel guilty about that, like it’s not something he should be doing, so he makes an effort to stop but it still isn’t enough; he still feels dirty and unclean about it and it eats at him. So one Sunday he feels particularly called and he gets up in front of the congregation and kneels before that pew and he asks Jesus into his heart. A few weeks later he gets baptized and the sin he felt he was committing by looking at that porn is gone and he feels clean again. And the church’s teachings tell him that the transgressions he committed before his baptism are forgiven. But he can’t stay away from the porn for long and eventually he goes back to it.

Does that mean that his baptism is null and void because he went back and sinned again after he was baptized? Not according to the church. According to most church doctrine, that’s why Jesus was crucified – to forgive us when we fall. When we inevitably sin again. The church doesn’t teach that we have to be baptized every week or once a year or that we have to have a once-a-decade dunking to wipe the slate clean again because that’s what Jesus’ death was for.

And that brings us to the wrench. Remember the wrench we mentioned before? The one grinding up the cogs that make the church’s salvation machine run so smoothly? Who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

If you knew that the person sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday was now riding the pornography wagon again would you tell him he was going to go to Hell when he dies? Would you feel the need to save his soul? Probably not. And why would that be? Because he’s been baptized? Because he’s sitting in that pew every week and listening to the sermons? Because you were a witness to his salvation?

Now what would your answers to those same questions be if that man sitting next to you was gay? If you knew that the person sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday was gay would you tell him he was going to go to Hell when he dies? Would you feel the need to try to save his soul?

What if the gay man was baptized? Would his sin not have been washed away just like that of the man who watched pornography and masturbated? Yes, you say, but he continued in his sin after his baptism so his soul is still doomed to Hell. Sure, but did the straight man not also continue to sin after his baptism when he continued to watch porn? So why is the gay man’s sin worse than the straight man’s sin? Why do  you feel comfortable in continuing to condemn the gay man to Hell when he has supposedly been saved in the same way that the straight man has been?

After all, the Bible also considers pornography a sin (Matthew 5:28, James 1:14-15). Looking at this, it would appear that some Christians are saying that Jesus’ death only covered some of the things listed as sins in the Bible and that they’ve decided that being gay isn’t one of them.

So again I ask, who gets to decide another person’s salvation?

The bottom line is that it is not our place as lowly humans to decide who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t. We are not the ones guarding the Pearly Gates. We are not the gatekeepers. And we do not get to stand in judgment of our fellow man, overlooking the sins that we deem “less” while condemning those we deem “unforgivable”.

So the answer to the question that I’ve asked here is that we are not the ones who get to decide when another person is saved; when they are born-again. Only God gets to decide that and none of us are God. None of us are worthy to judge the heart of another and what is in the hearts of others is the only thing that matters when the end comes.

We have our commands. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are told not to judge. So perhaps we, as Christians, should spend less time worrying about the souls of others and spend more time worrying about what lies in our own hearts.

 

“…Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…”” ~John 8:7

 

 

 

 

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One Christian’s Review: Beauty and the Beast

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Warning: This review contains spoilers

I want to start by saying that I freaking loved this movie. Like absolutely, completely loved it. And here’s why:

 1) This movie is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the Disney cartoon that we all know and love. It starts the same (although the beginning scene in which the Prince is cursed is extended a bit), they used much of the same dialogue from the cartoon and every single song from the cartoon is in this movie (I got goose bumps during the tavern song where they’re all singing Gaston’s praises. The cast did such a good job with that song that I wanted to get up and dance with them). They did add, I think, 4 or 5 new songs but these new additions just added to the soundtrack because they’re all amazing. They also added a bit more back story to the Prince, talking about his family, and they talked about Belle’s mother. They didn’t talk about either of these things in the cartoon but these new additions just added more depth to the live-action version, making it seem more real, somehow, and less like a remake of a cartoon.

2) They did a wonderful job with casting for this movie. Every actor here nailed their role (Luke Evans as Gaston and Emma Watson as Belle are particularly note-worthy). These people weren’t just actors doing a job. They were these characters and it was wonderful to watch.

3) This movie is visually beautiful. Obviously there is a lot of CGI used here but it’s done so well that you can’t tell it’s not real. It’s just gorgeous.

Again, I loved this movie. It was well worth the money we paid to watch it and I give it a solid 10/10 rating. Go see it. Seriously. Take your kids. Take your friends. Hell, go alone. Whatever. Just go see it. You’ll be glad you did.

Now, on to the part of this review that I wish I didn’t need to do. The soul-crushing, child-corrupting gay sex part of the review.

So I know you all have heard about the controversy surrounding the “openly gay” character in Beauty and the Beast. We all have. It’s been a big deal. So here’s my take on the whole thing after seeing Beauty and the Beast for myself.

Their “openly gay” character (Gaston’s faithful sidekick, Lefou) isn’t openly gay at all. In fact, he and Gaston have discussions at least twice in this movie about Lefou dating or being interested in women. Lefou never disavows Gaston of the assumption that he’s interested in women, something I assume he would do if he’s as openly gay as people are claiming. Yes, Lefou’s character is effeminate, speaking in a high-pitched voice at times and making certain hand gestures and body movements that some people, I’m sure, would see and automatically assume “yep, he’s gay”.

At one point in the tavern scene I mentioned above, where Lefou leads the townsfolk in a rousing song about the awesomeness that is Gaston, Lefou sort of wraps himself in Gaston’s arms while he’s dancing around Gaston in adoration. There’s a moment of awkward silence. “Too much?” Lefou asks. Gaston nods and the song goes on.

Later in the movie, during the scene towards the end where the members of the Prince’s household are defending the castle from the torch-and-pitchfork wielding townsfolk, the wardrobe aggressively dresses three men in women’s clothes (if you recall, this also happens in the cartoon, only there’s just one man instead of three in the animated version). Two of the men run away screaming but the third looks pleased with his new look and sort of prances away happy. This scene takes maybe five seconds to play out.

Now we come to the big gay love scene in the movie. The one that is sure to turn unsuspecting children into ravening gay predators and leave Christ weeping on his throne in Heaven. In the story, Gaston is dead, the residents of the castle have been returned to their human selves , the Beast has been magically transformed back into the Prince by the power of Belle’s love and the whole castle is celebrating with a ball. There is much dancing and merry-making and everyone, including Lefou, is on the floor twirling to the music with someone else.

At one point Lefou twirls away from the woman he’s dancing with and finds himself suddenly arm-to-arm with none other than the man who walked down the steps during the siege on the castle happy about his new dress. The two smile at each other…aaand the camera cuts back to Belle and her Prince.

Wait, what?? That’s it? Where’s the passionate gay kiss? Where’s the two men rushing into each other’s arms?

Sorry, folks. That’s all she wrote. That one scene – Lefou and a random extra with a whole 10 seconds of screen time in the whole movie touching arms for maybe 2 seconds while smiling at each other (it’s seriously a blink and you’ll miss it situation)is what all this fuss has been about.

All in all, you are going to have to really, really be looking for those homosexual undertones in order to find them in this movie because, other than those two barely-there scenes, the homosexual aspect of this movie just doesn’t exist. The “openly gay” character that so many fundamentalist Christians that I know personally were boycotting this wonderful movie over is not even remotely openly gay and doesn’t even once in the entire 2 1/2 hour running time mention anything about his sexuality. I don’t understand how your kids could possibly be indoctrinated into the “gay lifestyle” by what they’re going to see in this movie because there’s literally nothing to see. And if you don’t want to see two guys touching arms while smiling at each other for the time it takes the average person to blink their eyes than just leave as soon as the scene with everyone dancing starts. There. Problem solved.

The bottom line is this. This movie was visually beautiful, musically amazing and a faithful adaptation of a beloved classic. That in itself – the faithful adaptation part – is a reason to celebrate. The love story is moving and the writing is at turns witty, funny, poignant and thought-provoking. You will laugh, cry and be moved in ways that a good movie should move you.

This story is one of redemption, of family, of loyalty and friendship, of love in all it’s many forms. And above all it’s a story that teaches the incredibly important lesson that we need not judge others by what we see with our eyes, but by what they have in their hearts. These are lessons that are desperately needed in this world where compassion, empathy and love seem to be going extinct.

And if you are so closed-minded that you are going to deprive yourself of that experience because of rumor you heard on some blog or an article you read on a website – a rumor that I am telling you now is completely groundless – than I feel sorry for you. Because with a mind and heart that narrow, your world must be a dark, lonely place indeed.

 

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Know the Vote – Veterans Issues

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We recently had a Presidential election here in the United States. In all the years that I’ve been following politics this was probably the most contentious election I’ve ever participated in, with hard lines being drawn, accusations being thrown and information and misinformation flying like bullets. So I wanted to write this to inject some facts into one of the issues that seems to be a hot-button topic among a lot of people – veterans issues.

Here’s the truth about how lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted for veteran’s care bills for the last 10 years. All information came from ProjectVoteSmart.com.

HR 4297 – Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005 (1)

-Introduced November 10, 2005

-Passed in the House May 10, 2006; Passed the in Senate May 11, 2006

-Signed into law May 17, 2006

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to adopt a conference report that authorizes and extends $69.96 billion in tax credits and cuts through 2010.”

– Voted for (House): 229 Republicans/15 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 51 Republicans/3 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 2 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 3 Republicans/39 Democrats

HR 1585 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (2)

– Introduced March 20, 2007

– Passed in the House December 12, 2007; Passed in the Senate December 14, 2007

– Signed into law December 28, 2007

– VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.31 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 188 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 46 Republicans/44 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/45 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 1 Republican/2 Democrats

HR 4986 – Defense Authorizations Bill (3)

– Introduced January 16, 2008

– Passed in the House January 16, 2008; Passed the in Senate January 22, 2008

– Signed into law January 26, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that sets authorization limits for Defense appropriations in fiscal year 2008 at $688.60 billion.”

– Voted for (House): 187 Republicans/182 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 45 Republicans/45 Democrats

– Voted against (House): 4 Republicans/42 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 0 Republicans/2 Democrats

HR 3221 – Housing Bill with Energy Tax Credit Extensions (4)

-Introduced July 30, 2007

-Passed in the House August 4, 2007; Passed in the Senate April 10, 2008

-Signed into law July 30, 2008

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to pass a bill that increases mortgage grants, mortgage limitations, various property assistances to the homeless and veterans, and the line of credit for mortgages under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 4899 – Fiscal Year 2009-10 Supplemental Appropriations (5)

-Introduced March 21, 2010

-Passed the the House March 24, 2010; Passed the Senate May 27, 2010

-Signed into law July 29, 2010

-VoteSmart synopsis: “Vote to concur with the fifth portion of a divided question on a bill that requires the President, no later than April 4, 2010, to submit to Congress a plan for the “safe, orderly, and expeditious” redeployment of armed forces from Afghanistan, including military and security-related contractors, including a timetable for the completion of such redeployment.”

-Voted for (House): 45 Republicans/227 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 26 Republicans/44 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 149 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 13 Republicans/0 Democrats

HR 3082 – Continuing Appropriations (6)

-Introduced June 26, 2009

-Passed in the House July 10, 2009; Passed in the Senate November 17, 2009

-Signed into law December 22, 2010

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a resolution that appropriates funds for the federal government until March 4, 2011.”

-Voted for (House): 1 Republican/192 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 25 Republicans52 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 146 Republicans/19 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 14 Republicans/2 Democrats

S 1660 – American Jobs Act of 2011 (7)

-Introduced October 5, 2011

-Bill failed to pass the Senate October 11, 2011

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote on a motion to invoke cloture on a bill that establishes programs designed to increase employment in the United States.”

-Voted for (Senate): 0 Republicans/48 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

HR 933 – Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (8)

-Introduced March 4, 2013

-Passed the House March 6, 2013; Passed the Senate March 20, 2013″

-Signed into law March 26, 2013

-VoteSmart Synopsis: “Vote to concur with Senate amendments and pass a bill that appropriates funds for the federal government for fiscal year 2013.”

-Voted for (House): 203 Republicans/115 Democrats

Voted for (Senate): 20 Republicans/51 Democrats

-Voted against (House): 46 Republicans/3 Democrats

Voted against (Senate): 25 Republicans/1 Democrat

Sources (and to read the full wording of each bill):

(1) http://vot(1esmart.org/bill/3307/8593/27110/tax-relief-extension-reconciliation-act-of-2005

(2) http://votesmart.org/bill/4562/15963/27110/national-defense-authorization-act-for-fiscal-year-2008

(3) http://votesmart.org/bill/6073/16857/27110/defense-authorizations-bill

(4) http://votesmart.org/bill/4650/21324/27110/housing-bill-with-energy-tax-credit-extensions

(5) http://votesmart.org/bill/11452/30599/27110/fiscal-year-2009-2010-supplemental-appropriations

(6) http://votesmart.org/bill/12444/32992/27110/continuing-appropriations

(7) http://votesmart.org/bill/13909/36879/27110/american-jobs-act-of-2011

(8) http://votesmart.org/bill/16279/43150/27110/consolidated-and-further-continuing-appropriations-act-2013

 

 

 

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The Boy in McDonald’s

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My family and I stopped at a McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri tonight on our way home after a long road trip. We ordered our food to go because we just wanted to get home and we sat down to wait. I went up to fill my drink cup and when I came back, there was a young boy, maybe 8 years old, standing there. My son said the boy had some questions for me. What followed was one of the strangest and saddest conversations I’ve ever had with a stranger:

He asked me if I loved Jesus Christ. I responded that I did. He then asked me if I knew Genesis 9:7 (Go forth and multiply). I said I did not and he proceeded to quote it to me. Then he asked me if I go to church and when I said no he asked me if I ever listen to any sermons. I told him that I sometimes listen to sermons on youtube and he asked me if I ever listed to any by someone named Rockway. I told him that, no, I’d never heard of that man and that I normally just listen to whatever catches my eye.

Up to this point the conversation had been fairly benign, although I will admit that it was a strange conversation to be having with a small stranger in the middle of McDonald’s with the smell of grease and french fries hanging in the air and I had to wonder where this kid’s parents were and if they knew he was talking to random strangers. But this is where the conversation gets very sad:

Boy: “What do you think of the Catholics? Do you think they’re bad?”

Me: “No, I don’t think anyone’s bad.”

Boy: “But they let the gays get married and they let them hold hands and kiss in church and that’s bad.”

Me: “Don’t you think that Jesus would want all of us to be happy? And if the people they love are making them happy than why is that bad?”

Boy: “But Jesus is against the gays.”

Me: “Some people think that, that’s true. But I dont’ think that God would want us to hate anyone, do you? I think that there’s enough hate and meanness in the world that God would want us all to be happy and kind to each other.”

Boy: “I don’t hate anyone.” He’s obviously confused by this point. Then he gestures to my kids. “Would you let them marry someone who’s the same?” I assume he means the same sex.

Me: “Yes, I would. As long as the person they were with treated them right and made them happy than that’s all that matters to me.”

Boy: “I wouldn’t let my daughter marry someone who was the same.” He pauses for a minute, as if he’s unsure of what to say next. “If you think I’m being rude I’ll leave.”

Me: “You’re not being rude. I don’t mind talking to you like this at all.”

He stood there for another few seconds, just looking at me, and then he walked away. About that time, they called our number, we got our food and we left.

But I thought about that boy and the things he said the rest of the way home.

What kind of twisted mind would take the innocence of youth and poison it that way? What kind of person looks at their child and thinks “I must teach them to hate the same people I hate.” Do they not stop to think of the part of their child’s spirit that they may be killing while they plant their vile seeds? Do they not think about the lives that their child may impact in the future with that sort of awful and backwards thinking? Every child has the potential to do great good and, instead of fostering that miraculous potential, these parents decided to foster their own prejudices instead. Even now, nearly 6 hours after the incident as I sit here writing this, I just can’t seem to wrap my head around that one concept.

We as followers of Christ have a responsibility to the world to make it a better place. To leave it in better shape than it was in when we came into it. We are to be God’s hands, his feet and his mouthpiece here on Earth and I fully believe that the root of our religion is very simple; Love one another. Every other thing that we will ever do as believers grows from that one basic tenant. And when you teach this concept to children what you’re doing is expanding on what they already know – that everyone is the same and that we’re supposed to be nice to each other. This concept comes naturally for children; it’s something they’re born with. I’ve heard many atheists say that indoctrinating children with religion is akin to child abuse and I always argue against that for the reasons I stated above. How can it be child abuse when you’re just encouraging something that comes so naturally to a child? But meeting this boy tonight might just change my mind. This child was absolutely indoctrinated.

The whole incident left me feeling so sad. Children aren’t born hating anyone. They don’t care what color you are, or what your religion is or whether you or your parents are gay or straight as long as you’re willing to share the cool toys in the sandbox. And someone had taken this child, this impressionable young mind, and they were beating that innocence and goodness out of him. They may not have been using whips or wooden spoons or cane switches, but it was being beaten out of him nonetheless and they were replacing that thing that all children have – that light, that wholesomeness that is the very essence of childhood – with something dark and poisonous. Something that would grow to consume him if he didn’t someday throw it off. That one thing he said, more than anything else “I don’t hate anyone,” tugs at my heartstrings. Because the kicker is that he probably doesn’t hate anyone, not yet. Right now he’s just parroting the things that his parents and the other adults in his life have told him to say. He’s just reading his lines, lines that – at this point – he probably doesn’t even understand.

I don’t know if that boy is even going to remember anything I said when he wakes up in the morning. I don’t know if that meeting is going to change anything for him and I suspect that if he told his parents the details of what I said they probably told him something along the lines of how lost and wrong I was. But eventually that child is going to come to a crossroads in his life – as all believers do – and he’s going to have to decide if he should continue down the path he’s been following his entire life or if he wants to get off that path and tread somewhere else. Somewhere where the light shines on everyone and Jesus’s love doesn’t have to be earned on bended knee. And maybe this is ego speaking but I hope that when that day comes he’ll think of the random stranger in the orange shirt that he talked to in the McDonald’s in Marshfield, Missouri when he was just a boy and about the things that she said. And I hope that he chooses to walk in the light and leave the darkness behind.

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When Love Feels Like Hate

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Alright, everyone. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about that phrase that gets thrown around in the religious community almost as much as much as “I’ll pray for you”: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” What does this phrase mean, exactly? Well, it’s supposed to mean that we love everyone but that doesn’t mean that we have to love or condone the sins they’re committing. Just like I have to love my Aunt Margot because she’s family but I don’t have to love the fact that she hauls a flask of rotgut whiskey to family functions and then insists on singing “Put the Lime in the Coconut” at the top of her lungs while we eat dinner.  Seriously, Margot. Stop doing that.

But is that really how we – Christians of the world –  are using this much-used phrase? Are we really loving all of God’s people and just hating the sins they’re committing? Let’s take, for the sake of this post, homosexuality as our example. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That it explicitly states in the Bible that laying with someone of the same sex as you would with someone of the opposite sex is sinful and an abomination before God. Therefore, in God’s eyes, being gay is a sin. But doesn’t God say that we’re supposed to love everyone? Love the sinner, hate the sin to the rescue! So, how do we do that? How do we go about loving another of God’s children the same way God loves us (as we’re commanded to do) while hating their sins?

Well, in the case of homosexuality, we fight against legalizing same-sex marriage so people can’t legally commit that sin. And we encourage conversion therapy for gay youth so that we can cast out the sin. And, of course, we preach our sermons against anything that might promote the homosexual lifestyle because it’s important to keep them away from the sin in the first place. And if the gay people are fully committed to their sin than we have no choice but to pray for them and hope than they come to God and turn away from their heathen ways, returning into the fold, clean and sin-free. We try to warn them of the consequences of their actions, we tell them of the perils of Hell that await them if they don’t turn away from homosexuality, that they can’t possibly get into the kingdom of Heaven with that sinful stain on their souls. Because that’s really all we can do, right? We can show them the way and hope that they take the straight and narrow path.

So we can sleep well at night, fellow Christians, knowing that we’ve done all we can do to love those gay people, those homosexual children of God while still warning them of the wrong that they’re doing. While still hating their sin and trying to turn them away from it. We can rest our heads and knew we did our best.

But what of those gay people? How do they feel about the steps we’ve taken? Put yourself in their shoes and see if you still feel like you’ve loved that sinner the way God would want you to. Imagine that you’ve met someone that you love and that you have proposed to that person and you want to spend the rest of your life with them but you can’t. You can’t stand up before a minister and your friends and family and God and profess your love for them because a particular group of people said that your love is wrong and sinful and it should be illegal. But hey, those people still love you so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a teenager, swimming in feelings that you don’t understand, confused about who you are who is taken from everything comfortable and familiar and put through horrendous mental torture in which you are told that the person you think you are is wrong and sinful and that, if you continue down that path, you are going to burn in Hell for all eternity. But your church family is telling you they love you as you lie sobbing, broken, lost, alone and confused so it’s okay!

And imagine that you are a Christian who just happens to be gay, who believes that God loves you because you are His child and, just like any good parent, He loves all His children equally, no matter what. And then you are confronted with other Christians who are telling you that, no, God doesn’t love you the way you are. That you have to change yourself or you won’t be good enough to deserve God’s love. But these people love you so everything – all these hurtful, hateful, mean things they’re saying to you are all okay!

One thing that we Christians are horribly guilty of is picking and choosing which sins are worthy of our time and which are not. We have, for some reason, decided that homosexuality is one that is the big One-Way Ticket to Hell while working on Sunday – one that is a sin punishable by death in the Bible and is so bad it got it’s own Commandment – is almost completely ignored. Where are the people walking through Wal-Mart and Target on Sundays telling all the employees they’re going to Hell for working on the Sabbath? Where are the lines of Christians picketing in front of courthouses to get legislators to pass laws making it illegal to work on Sunday? And what of divorce? I’m a divorced woman and I’ve never, ever been told that I’m going to Hell because I divorced my husband even thought the Bible’s pretty specific about that.

So here’s the bottom line. Our Christian love feels a lot like hate to those on the receiving end of it and that is never something that we should be promoting. That is never something that we should feel good about because that is not going to bring anyone closer to God. In fact, it’s just pushing people further away. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that we made up to make ourselves feel good about passing judgement on other people; people who are doing things that we don’t like. Because it obviously has nothing to do with what the Bible says we should or should not be doing or we would be taking a much stronger stance on closing down Long John Silver’s and not wearing polyester blends. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about us loving the sinner and hating the sin. In fact, it says pretty explicitly that we’re not to judge anyone and that we’re to love unconditionally. It’s God’s place to judge and at the end of it all, we’re all going to have to stand before him and answer for our own lives. So let’s leave the judgement up to Him and just love each other, shall we?

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Letting Your Child Be Wild

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When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9, my parents took my sisters and I with them when they went to visit a friend of my Dad’s. This friend lived way out in the middle of nowhere, on over 1,000 acres of woods and there was this awesome creek that ran through most of it, complete with a natural waterfall. Next to this waterfall the homeowner had built a gazebo. Even though it was fall when we went and kind of chilly, my sisters and I spent the entire day we were there playing in that gazebo next to that partially frozen creek. We had no toys except the leaves, sticks and dirt around that structure, no screen except our imaginations, no other friends but ourselves and we had so much fun that the memory of that day still sticks with me more than 20 years later.

When I turned 12 my Dad started taking me deer hunting with him. Every year when the air would start to turn crisp and the leaves would begin to turn colors and the days started to get shorter I would get so excited because I knew that hunting season would soon begin. That day would dawn bright and early and Dad and I would get up before dawn. I’d dress in so many layers that I’d feel like the Michelin Man, we’d load all of our gear in Dad’s rickety old truck and drive out to our hunting spot. Once we were there, we’d strap on bags holding our lunch, extra ammo and all those various disgusting smell liquids that my Dad was convinced would cover our scent and make our hunting more successful. Then we’d hike for miles through the pre-dawn woods, trying to be as sneaky as people wearing 50 pounds of clothes could be, stopping every few hours to listen with the breath steaming up in front of us in the chilly wind. Then we’d sit on the cold, damp ground for hours; barely moving, not making any noise, just listening to the woods around us. We rarely actually bagged anything but that wasn’t the point.

I had so many wonderful experiences out in the woods with my Dad. Probably my favorite was when we had a pair of chipmunks playing on the log we were hiding behind. The two little guys ran and played barely 5 feet from us for nearly 20 minutes before they ran off. Then there was the time that we watched a doe and her twins graze in the clearing down the hill from us. And the time we watched a coyote catch and kill a turkey. Those experiences, being that close to nature, helped to shape me into the person I am today.

When I was a child I just knew that I was going to be a veterinarian and one of my favorite things to do was to rescue animals, try to patch them up, and let them go. My Dad ran a glass lizard over with the lawnmower once and cut it in half. He brought it to me, I sewed it’s two pieces back together with cross-stitch floss and bandaged him with Kleenexes and, by God, he survived. I was never so proud as I was when that snakey little lizard slithered away after he healed. I had many more failures – I never could seem to keep injured birds alive – but I always tried nonetheless.

I remember going creek walking when I was a kid and staying behind while everyone else went ahead so I could bang rocks together and try to make arrowheads. I would collect animal bones that I found in the woods and try to identify the species. My sisters and I once spent hours digging a trench through a creek bed so tadpoles trapped in a small pool could swim down to the main creek. We went rock-hunting and mushroom hunting and rode our bikes around town for hours.

My sisters and I weren’t your “typical” girls. We loved to walk and swim in creeks, we were overjoyed at the thought of going creek walking and arrowhead hunting with our parents. We climbed trees and played in mud puddles and touched dead things just to see what we could see. And our parents encouraged our natural curiosity. They never discouraged us from getting dirty, from asking questions or from exploring our world.

People like to blame electronics for the fact that kids these days don’t do the things that I did when I was a kid. But I don’t blame the electronics. We own an PS3,  a Wii, three computers, and each of the kids have their own laptop and they would still rather go outside and play in the rain or ride their bikes through puddles or climb trees than play on the Playstation. The key is for we, as parents, to ignite in our kids the spark of imagination that will carry them throughout their lives. We need to be out there with them, in the dirt and the rain and the woods, learning, exploring, teaching. Making those memories that our children will never forget.

So remember, kids and clothes are washable. And those scrapes, bumps and bruises will heal. But the memories your child makes while getting them will last a lifetime.

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On Being the Perfect Parent

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What is our definition of a perfect parent? Is it the one who’s house is always clean? The one who’s kids are always wearing the latest fashions? Is it the mother who always follows the advice in the latest medical journals about feeding and sleeping and discipline?  Or maybe it’s the parent who makes sure that there are always homemade three-course meals on the table at dinner-time every night?

If you can do all the things I listed and stay sane, my hats off to you. But if these are the marks of a perfect parent than I am striking out on all counts. My house is always messy and never spotless. I’m the stay-at-home Mom who sometimes just doesn’t feel like doing anything but watching TV or playing video games during the day while her kids are in school. I’m the Mom who occasionally just doesn’t have the energy to stand over a stove for hours and make a big meal so we have peanut butter and jelly for dinner. I’m the Mom who spends all her time at home in her pajamas because what’s the point of getting dressed if you’re not going anywhere? My kids wear hand-me-downs and they sometimes have holes in their shoes.

My son is circumcised, we didn’t co-sleep, I bottle-fed all three of my kids without a single thought to breast-feeding, we let our kids cry it out, I don’t spank them, they’re up to date on all their vaccines and have been since they were born and we eat a lot of processed food. In short, I don’t meet a lot of people’s definition of a perfect parent and I’m okay with that. You know why? Because my kids are happy and they are healthy and the decisions that I’ve made for my kids were the right ones for us.

So often these days we parents are hit with advice from well-meaning relatives and complete strangers alike. Everyone has an opinion on how you should be raising your kids and other parents are our worst critics. There is so much pressure on us right out of the gate to meet societies standards for “perfect parenting.”

Is breast-feeding best for babies? Probably but it’s not an option for everyone so cut out the blame and laying of guilt. Are fresh foods better than processed? Undoubtedly but sometimes we just don’t feel like whipping up a masterpiece. Is natural medicine better for kids than over the counter stuff? Perhaps but a lot of people (like me) are okay with their chemicals. Are organic foods better for you and your kids? Maybe but I can tell you that organic’s a lot more expensive and therefore not always a viable option.

There are so many ways to be a perfect parent and, in the end, I think that the perfect parent is one that takes all that outside advice with a grain of salt and does what’s best for their family. Because nobody knows your family the way you do and nobody is better equipped to make those choices than you. None of us got an instruction manual when our kids were born. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with the information we’re given. So instead of tearing each other down because we don’t agree with the decisions others are making let’s try to build each other up.

Let’s stop being each other’s biggest critics and start being each other’s biggest supporters.